The days are shorter and the nights long and cold, but there is always something to plant and do in the garden. So, dress up warmly and dig right in!
It’s not too cold for super winter woodland shrubs…Not many plants can claim to be salt spray tolerant, as well as drought and frost hardy. Add to this, creamy white bell-shaped flowers and contrasting grey-green leaves and you have a dream plant! White correa (Correa alba) is a fast-growing, evergreen shrub that has leathery grey-green leaves. It has a dense rounded habit and can grow to 1.5m in height. It tolerates pruning well and can make a good hedge or small shrub. Correa grows in the sun or partial shade. It is not fussy about the soil but prefers a well-draining medium, enriched with compost. It needs regular watering when young, but once established, it is quite water wise. This beauty flowers throughout the year, with a main flowering flush in autumn.
Fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense ‘Rubrum’) is a slow-growing shrub (reaching between 1,5 – 2m) with burgundy to dusky pink hued oval leaves. Spider-like, fragrant pink flowers appear in winter. Use it as a specimen plant in a small garden or in a patio pot, or plant lots of them in a woodland scene where they can enjoy morning sun and shade on hot summer afternoons. This is a very cold-hardy shrub and also invulnerable to diseases and insect attacks. It can be fully or semi-deciduous, depending on the climate and prefers well-drained soil, to which compost has been added, and regular watering.
Azalea magenta is probably the most glorious and easy-to-grow variety of all the Azaleas (Rhododendron). It is a large shrub (reaching up to 3m) which produces large, singular magenta flowers from late winter to spring. Plant it in well-drained soil enriched with acid compost in sun or preferably filtered shade. Azaleas like a cool root run in ever moist soil (their root systems are very shallow) and enjoy a good showering of water regularly. Feed your Azaleas in spring after flowering with Azalea food and acid compost to ensure a good flower flush for the following season. Mulch afterwards with pine needles or acidic bark.
Plant up an aloe and succulent bed or rockery
Aloes provide the best winter colour and you will be amazed at how much wildlife they attract. They are extremely water-wise and require little or no maintenance. Most succulents, like Crassulas, are much more colour-rich in winter and lots of them flower too.
Amongst the diverse group of Crassulas are groundcovers which can grow and flower heartily in the poor soil around tree trunks in dry, or even wet (well-drained) semi-shade, as well as in difficult to plant retaining walls. Others can be used as bright colour accents in gravel or rock gardens, specimen plants in large containers or as tough shrubs. They can even be planted up as succulent hedges in dry or windy coastal gardens, or in hanging baskets, in window boxes, or as houseplants.
Try these two Crassulas for starters…
‘Campfire’ is a magnificent rockery plant or colourful accent plant for a gravel garden. It will set your winter garden alight with its propellor-like leaves which mature from bright lime-green with red tips, to a fiery orange-red the colder it gets. This groundcover will tolerate frost, but not a hard freeze. It reaches a height of between 15 – 40cm and spreads about 1m far. It roots easily from stem nodes. Masses of tiny white flowers are borne on tall, stout stems in summer. This Crassula can also be a very pretty container or hanging basket plant. Good for full sun or semi-shade.
Crassula multicava – a swath of happy and lush multicavas in full flower from May to September is a heart-warming sight to see. This fast-growing, mat-forming succulent produces an outstanding uniform effect in the semi-shade under trees and has rightly become a very popular garden plant in the landscaping trade. It can also be used to stabilise banks and in the planting holes of cement retaining walls. The leaves are oval, glossy and light to dark green, depending on the position in the garden. The flowers can either be pinkish white to quite a happy shade of pink. Another form is known as Crassula multicava ‘Purple’, has a dark shade of purple on the flipside of the leaves which makes it an attractive ground hugger even if not in flower.
There are five reasons why houseplants have become so popular lately:
Some, like peace lilies (Spathiphyllum) and Ficus species, are good air purifiers. They are also proven to provide a calmness to a living or work space.
Flowering houseplants last much longer than cut flowers, thus making them better value for money – winter favourites are Cyclamens and Azaleas.
Large and dramatic tropical leaves like those of Monsteras and Philodendrons are still totally on-trend!
Sculptural plants and large palms make for delightful natural decor items.
The best reason to invest in lots of houseplants is that one can garden and play around with nature in winter, for those days it’s just too cold to be outside in the garden.
Cool houseplants to try out
Staghorn fern (Platycerium) – an epiphytic tropical plant with two types of leaves. It has tough bright green antler-like foliage as well as flat basal-like leaves, which can turn brown and papery. This plant is normally sold already mounted on a piece of wood. Hang it in bright, diffused sunlight and mist regularly with water.
Zebra plant (Calathea) – this tropical plant with its lovely mottled leaves enjoys a humid atmosphere and bright diffused light. Frequent misting will prevent brown leaf edges, and regular feeding with a water-soluble fertiliser at half-strength will keep it lush.
African milk tree (Euphorbia trigona) – this is a tall, slender and erect succulent from Namibia. The dark-green branches are three-cornered and ridged, with white mottling along their entire length and short brown thorns on each ridge. Vertical ranks of spoon-shaped leaves are held on the tips and along the sides of each branch.
Dealing with rust
Rust is a fungus disease that affects many plants. To identify it, you should look for yellow or white spots forming on the upper leaves of a plant. Also, look for reddish to orange blister-like swellings called pustules on the undersides of leaves. Orange or yellow spots or streaks might appear on the undersides of the leaves too. Within these spots that form are spores which can spread to healthy plants by wind or water.
Prevention and treatment:
- Space your plants properly to encourage good air circulation.
- Avoid wetting the leaves when watering plants.
- Remove all infected parts and destroy them.
- There are many effective rust fungicides you can try. Ask your local GCA nursery for products you can use.
Rose care for June
As large shrubs and trees mature, they might start shading your roses too much. Their roots can also start robbing rose bushes from nutrients and water. June is the best month to move threatened roses to a new, prepared bed with more sun.
Pansies love the cold and there is nothing better on a chilly winter morning that gazing on to their happy faces. These annuals are perfect to plant as borders and edgings, in window boxes and in containers. Position the plants where they will receive full sun in winter but partial shade in spring and early summer. They like regular watering and fertile composted soil which drains well. Feed every two weeks with a general liquid fertiliser and remove spent flowers to encourage more.
Time for lilies
Lilium bulbs are for sale now and should be planted immediately after you have purchased them. Plant them in bold clumps between winter annuals or small shrubs and groundcovers to keep their ‘feet’ in the shade while allowing their ‘heads’ to grow into full sun.
(Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo)
- Plant new roses, vines and fruit trees, along with blossom trees, like flowering peach, plum, cherry, quince and crab apple. The bees love their spring blossoms.
- Prune deciduous fruit trees (i.e. plums, apricots, apples, pears), at the end of June and spray with a fungicide. Visit your local GCA Garden Centre for the best product to use.
- Conifers are magnificent in winter. The slender and dark green Cupressus sempervirens ‘Stricta’ can grow to a glorious height of 20m. You can stop them from growing too high by cutting across their growth points. If you continuously ‘shave’ their side branches with sharp scissors you will turn them into fashionable green garden pillars.
- Remove any green growth from variegated plants like Coprosmas, or the plants will revert to green.
- Tangy leaves, like rocket (Eruca sativa) are tops for sowing and growing in winter. The seeds germinate quickly in a sunny spot. You will soon have lots of peppery leaves to use in healthy salads. Cooler weather does not encourage these plants to bolt and set seed as fast as they would in summer.
(Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal)
- If your gravel areas are smothered in weeds and the gravel keeps on disappearing into the soil, it might be a good idea to rake the stones onto a heap away from the area. Next lay down a layer of weed matting – a strong membrane sold by the roll, which allows water and air through, while smothering germinating weed seed. This material also prevents gravel chips from sinking into the soil.
- Use excess autumn leaves to make leaf mould in black plastic bags and also toss them in thin layers on the compost heap.
- Fertilise citrus trees this month. Additional foliar feeding with a soluble fertiliser for young lemon trees and those growing in pots is beneficial. Correct yellowing leaves with a micro-element mixture.
- Fertilise papaws and keep mango trees dry until the end of July, to encourage good flowering.
- Think of vygies – they grow all over the wilds and turn spring into real veld magic. But, by that time, they become scarce in nurseries as everybody wants them. So, jump the gun and buy all kinds of vygies (even if they are not in flower yet!) to plant in those often neglected and dry areas of the garden, like a pavement.
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The South African Nursery Association (SANA) – a pro-active force ensuring positive growth through representation at all levels & providing tactical networking within the green industry